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Everest 1953 A Perfect Climb To A New Year
It has finally happened. I discovered an audio book on audible.com that I can’t find in print—except for a used copy—and it’s the perfect book to feature in my last column of the year. Everest 1953 by Mick Conefrey is a chronicle of the first successful climb to the summit of Mt Everest. It is a book that every adventurist, historian, leader, journalist and bibliophile should read. Originally I thought Everest 1953 would be fun to experience because it was such an important event that happened to occur in the year I was born.
It ended up being much more than what I expected. In a sense it puts colonialism, nationalism, war, exploration and even success in a whole new light. In 1953, England and every other country in Europe were still trying to put World War II behind them. India was no longer a British colony. There were new political foes in the world, namely the Soviet Union. Everest 1953 is a reflection of all of those changes and challenges. The goal to reach the summit of Mt Everest mirrored the political landscape of the day.
The French, Swiss and British all wanted to be the first. New Zealand wanted in on the action and the Russians, who criticised mountain climbing as a frivolous pastime of decadent democratic societies, also considered the conquest. It was a time when mountain climbers seemed to be on the same level as conquering heroes. John Hunt, the leader of the expedition, was chosen over a more popular and arguably more experienced leader and mountain climber Eric Shipton, quite possibly because Hunt was a colonel in the British army.
Everest 1953 speaks a great deal about John Hunt’s leadership and provides worthy examples of how a true leader must often sacrifice personal gains for the sake of the team. The challenges Hunt encounters in getting the job as team leader and then assembling and managing a team of international mountain climbers offers a preview of international relations that would come to define the future.
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